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Creating Soul and Personality for Your Business (Part 2)

StarbucksBy Jo-Anne Oliveri, ireviloution intelligence, Brisbane, Australia Let’s continue from my last blog.  If it’s all about the client experience, and it is (just ask your clients), then how do you create a memorable and enjoyable client experience? Remember that it has to be a “real” experience because clients can spot fakes and phoneys from a mile away. Therefore your team must internalise your business personality – it must become the natural way that they interact with clients and teammates as well as how they represent your brand and your service. Step one in creating a happy client experience; inject soul into your business by finding your personality. Don’t be another ‘Me too’ business – find out what type of personality you want to portray to your clients. It doesn’t have to be fun and zany, although fun and zany may very well suit your company. Consider personality styles like classy, funky, professional, happy, colourful…the list is endless. However, you can’t fake a personality. It has to be real, genuine, and sincere. Your company has to be you. Brainstorm with your team. What is your personality? Only then can you know it, live it and be it. Once you know what your business personality is, you have the foundation to design your business premises, uniforms, marketing and in fact anything that represents your company right down to the font you choose to use to reflect this personality. By doing this your team will by way of nature automatically begin to in......
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The Security Deposit - How Much is Enough?

Security DepositBy Salvatore J. Friscia, San Diego Premier Property Management, San Diego, CA Every property owner should require tenants to issue a refundable security deposit which is held on file to insure against non-performance of the lease agreement. Non-performance may be, but is not limited to, anything from damages occurring during occupancy to expenses accrued due to the tenants conduct or failure to pay rent. The confusion begins with the property owner not knowing how much to require the tenant to issue for the security deposit. It is important to understand that security deposits for residential properties are controlled by statute and call for nondiscriminatory  and equal treatment. It is a prohibited discriminatory practice to charge a family a different amount then an applicant without children. It is also prohibited by law to require an excessive amount for the security deposit. In addition to collection of one month’s advanced rent, the maximum security deposit allowed (at least in the state of California) for an unfurnished unit is two months rent and three months rent for furnished properties. [California Civil Code 1950.5(c)] Check your local area laws for similar guidelines in your area. Many owners will ask for the first and last months rent along with the security deposit. This is allowed; unfortunately most renters are unable to afford twice the rent plus the security deposit upfront. Some owners will offer their property with a reduced security deposit. The owner will advertise the rental property at $1,000 monthly requiring a security deposit of $500, ......
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Decrease Vacancies with Creative Leasing Strategies

Leasing StrategiesBy Ben Holubecki, STML Realty Group, Glen Ellyn, IL As the weather warms up and the rental leasing season gets into full swing it is easy to get caught up in the rush of showing requests, rental applications, lease signings, and new tenant walk through appointments that usually fill these months for leasing agents and management companies. From what we are seeing in our area and what I have heard from managers and agents in other markets this is one of the more active springs in recent history for tenant moves and new leasing activity. We have seen our average vacancy time decrease from 30 days to less than 20 days over the last few months and some properties are renting as soon as they hit the open market. This is a far cry from just a few months ago when we were in the middle of one of the least active leasing winters that we can remember in the Midwest. While this is all great news for those of us who earn a living filling and managing these vacant units, we have noticed one area where things have not picked up all that much. The “tough to rent” properties are still hard to move. The nice unit in the dirty building, the overpriced 1 BR apartment, the house with the crazy wallpaper, the home next to the hoarding neighbor, and other general nightmare rentals still continue to be issues. While the market seems to be increasingly active, I see the activity ......
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Should I Seek Restitution?

CourthouseBy Geoff Roberts, Buildium, Boston, MA Unfortunately, sometimes tenant-related situations happen that require you to consider restitution: a tenant submits a bad check; causes significant damage and destruction to your property; moves out on the sly; or abandons his possessions on your property, leaving you to clean up the mess. None of these situations are pleasant, particularly because they generally leave you at best out some cash and, even worse, with a mess to clean up in your tenants wake (which, of course, may require even more expenditure). Of course you want to be paid the money you’re owed, but is it always worth pursuing such matters? Let’s take a look at some common scenarios. Small Claims CourtSmall claims court may be a good option in certain circumstances (note that some districts have a specific landlord-tenant court). Small claims complaints may be viable if your tenant does not pay rent, willfully damages or causes destruction to your property, or violates rules and regulations repeatedly after written notice to comply. Generally speaking, small claims courts handle matters under a certain dollar amount—usually $5,000 or less. All of the specifics vary on according to state, so be sure to check the specifics in your area. In most states, you will have to submit a small fee to file a complaint (generally around $25). If the case goes to court, witnesses may be required to appear in person, and you should be prepared to provide relevant documentation, such as receipts, leases, estimates, bills, check copies, and photographs. ......
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Resident Retention: Silent But Deadly

According to the SatisFacts Index, 23% of all residents have an outstanding maintenance issue. Some may be a result of a service request that wasn't completed properly the first time or a repair that didn't hold for whatever reason. Some may be a result of the maintenance team not having all the correct information and therefore not addressing the correct issue.  Some may be issues that have not been reported yet. Any way you slice it, nearly one-quarter of all residents currently have a maintenance issue in their home.Research shows that the more residents who have outstanding maintenance issues, the lower overall resident satisfaction is. And the lower resident satisfaction is, the less likely they will be to renew their lease. However, these silent but deadly ghosts of maintenance issues past and present do not have to be the reason for losing a resident.  By focusing on the service request process from start to finish, these issues can be banished for good!The service request resolution process is a team process that is critical to the resident's perception that this community is an "easy" place to live. They don't have to work hard to get attention or service when needed. And as a team process, it can be helpful to break down the entire process and see if every team member knows his or her role.Step 1 - Provide education to the office team on what information is most useful to the maintenance team when taking a service request. One helpful exercise is......
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Set Ground Rules Early with Owners and Tenants

The Rule BookBy Ben Holubecki, STML Realty Group, Glen Ellyn, IL I’ve always had a lot of respect for professionals who truly learn from their mistakes.  Many of the top companies and executives in the world admit that they have made plenty of them over the years.  What sets the successful companies apart from the unsuccessful ones is the ability to immediately make adjustments and avoid making the same mistake twice.  It can be costly to make an error on the job but it can be devastating to repeatedly make the same mistake over and over again.  That’s why I sat down last week to reflect upon a recent string of lost property management accounts. Those of us who manage properties owned by others all have our steady, long-term clients.  These are the ones that we can count on.  We depend on them to provide the residual revenue that drives our business and allows us to operate on a monthly basis.  These owners generally defer to our decisions, believe in our process, and most importantly trust us to manage an important part of their investment portfolio.  In our experience we have found a common theme that runs along with most of these clients.  Ground rules and expectations were properly set at the beginning of those business relationships.  Although there are always ups and downs involved in managing any relationship when you are playing with someone else’s money, those hurdles can often be overcome if guidelines were properly established at the beginning of the relationship.  If ......
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Is Renting to Family and Friends Wise?

Pay RentBy Salvatore J. Friscia, San Diego Premier Property Management, San Diego, CA As a property management company the majority of our accounts are derived from real estate investors but many of our accountscome from owners that have only 1 rental unit which is usually a prior primary residence. They may have self managed the property at one time but usually something occurs that invokes them to seek professional property management. There are many reasons why but for some the final straw comes after dealing with the aftermath of renting to a family member or a friend. Rental real estate should be treated like any other business venture but if you’re not accustom to being a landlord it seldom is. Many new landlords make the mistake of filling their vacancy with friends or family members to avoid having to actually deal with finding a qualified tenant. At first the situation may seem like a perfect fit and a great way to reduce costs associated with vacancy and marketing. In most cases the owner/landlord will typically relax qualification measures and make concessions based on the relationship, including not requiring an application or security deposit. Right from the start this creates a relaxed environment and allows the family member or friend to perceive the situation as somewhat casual and flexible as opposed to contractual. Because they know the tenant the owner often develops a false sense of security and doesn’t anticipate any problems, “I know this person and I’m helping them out so why ......
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Worse than Drug Dealers?

By Colin McCarthy, J.D., Robinson & Wood, San Jose, CA What do you call 50,000 lawyers at the bottom of the sea? “A good start.” No doubt many of you have heard this joke or a variant. Well I am a lawyer and I am here to tell you that I am also a human being. I have a wife. I have three children. I have the same hopes and dreams for them and myself as you do for you and your family. These jokes are insensitive, unkind, and hurtful. What do you have when a lawyer is buried up to his neck in sand? “Not enough sand.” Hey! Now wait a minute. No one seems to like lawyers. Especially those who have done well for themselves. Entrepreneurs and business persons, who frequently excel in the world of business often lament the presence of lawyers. “Lawyers only take my hard-earned money,” is a common refrain. “Lawyers add no value, all they do is slow me down,” is another. Why does California have the most lawyers and New Jersey have the most toxic waste dumps? “New Jersey got to pick first.” Why I never. It is also true that not a lot of people like landlords and real estate developers. Ever hear the one about the tour group in Egypt? The tour guide is describing a crypt within a pyramid. “This crypt is over a 1000 years old. It has not been touched, altered or upgraded in any manner in those 1000......
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Minimizing the Cost of Vacancy

By Ben Holubecki, STML Realty Group, Glen Ellyn, IL As a professional property management company we have found that one of the most difficult concepts for rental property owners to grasp is the true cost of vacancy.  Investors who have been in the rental game for a while understand that in almost all cases the greatest expense they will experience over the life of their investment property will be the cost of vacancy due to lost rent and preparing the property between tenants.  100% of our managed properties have or will go through a vacancy and prep period.  Based upon our experience in managing this process literally thousands of times we provide the following advice to our property owners to help minimize the costs associated with turning around the property and to expedite the placement of a new tenant to begin collecting rental income again. Get started now.  The worst thing that can be done is to wait for any particular task to be completed before starting on the next.  The game plan should be in place the day the tenant vacates the property.  Vendors should be ready to come in and provide quotes, marketing efforts should be getting put into place, and a firm deadline for completion of the necessary clean-up/repairs should be determined. Get your utilities in order – Make sure your utility accounts are in order as soon as your tenant leaves.  Nothing is as frustrating as having the carpet cleaners or painters show up to an empty......
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Can you hear me now? Will you hear me later?

So often, we take for granted the very people who pay our paycheck.  Truth is, it’s not the owner of the company or the head of your payroll department you should be brown-nosing, it’s your customer.  Without them you would have no paycheck.  It is important to take time for yourself so I’m not saying you should become a workaholic robot, but you should consider taking your level of customer service up a notch. Jen Piccotti’s recent blog got me thinking.  As a paying resident, what do I expect? Some people believe that having emergency maintenance is enough.  I don’t think that’s the case.  Instant gratification is no longer a luxury, it’s an expectation.  When I have a question, I want an answer! On site professionals know that being available isn’t always the bees knees.  Residents know where you live and some don’t hesitate to impose.  What if they could just send you an e-mail knowing you’ll respond?  They would probably rather do that anyway, but they have been trained to believe that office hours and email responses end simultaneously so they seek out other methods for a faster response. If your community has a Facebook page, you may have noticed this already.  Residents don’t get an instant response from sending you an e-mail so they make their complaint public.  The Apartment Expert - Lisa Trosien posed the question "Do you think people use Facebook while browsing and shopping for an apartment?"  -  Probably not intentionally, but word of mouth marketing is huge. People retain ......
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